Monday, February 26, 2007

Jan Davidsz de Heem : Eucharist in Fruit Wreath

HEEM, Jan Davidsz. de (b. 1606, Utrecht, d. 1684, Antwerpen)
Eucharist in Fruit Wreath 1648
Oil on canvas, 138 x 125,5 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Jan Davidsz de Heem was one of the greatest European still-life painters. He is claimed as a Flemish as well as a Dutch painter.

He settled in Antwerp in 1636. In Antwerp de Heem found his special province. There he painted his famous flower pieces, large compositions of exquisitely laid tables which occasionally have overt moralizing messages as well as the vanities.

In Antwerp he made contact with the Flemish Jesuit Daniel Seghers (1590-1661), who, was a pupil of Jan Brueghel the Elder and also an accomplished south Netherlandish flower painter.

Colourful extravagance and opulence, typical of Flemish taste, imbue his still lifes.

Religious flower still-lifes are a special category and was developed by Seghers. Apart from the Virgin Mary, Seghers and his pupils had a preference for Eucharistic motifs. The host has a mysterious luminescent quality which emphasized the process of transubtantiation.

The Eucharist was a particular popular theme in the Catholic Counter-Reformation. This subject was painted especially frequently by Jan Davidsz. de Heem.

The chalice (of gold, silver and precious jewels) and the luminous Host, symbols of Salvation, are surrounded by a superfluity of wheat and grapes of different types. Rare fruit of all kinds, large plums, peaches, cherries, oranges, lemons, and others in fine condition and state of ripeness together with hanging garlands, individual blooms, leaves, tendrils are all delicately painted as decoration and adornment. The lower plants, farther away from the light of heaven, droop and wilt.

All are placed in a smooth niche and its frame of shell motifs and twisted horns.

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